Am I the Culture Shock? | St. Lawrence University

Am I the Culture Shock?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Being in college forces you to grow up in a lot of ways. It’s not just being away from home that does this. This is not a blog post demanding you to suppress parts of yourself that ultimately make up the person you are. It rather is a reminder to be mindful, to be respectful, and cognizant that, yes, you all landed a spot at St. Lawrence, but you all started somewhere different. Each of you has a story unique to your experiences, and these stories will dictate how you react and adapt to your new home. Don’t be scared. Instead, be open to conversation, confrontation, and growth.

Before coming to St. Lawrence, I went to a high school where I had two roommates my junior year (my first year at the school). Prior to attending, my parents warned me about “culture shock,” that the behaviors and mannerisms of the people I’d soon be interacting with could be potentially shocking and off putting for me. Upon arriving and navigating through this new environment, I was so caught up in the prospect of being “culturally shocked,” that I never entertained the possibility of me being the culture shock. After the first semester of that year of high school, one of my roommates moved out. She was quiet, reserved, and liked to do her homework in the room. My roommate and I were very loud, very open, and loved to have our friends over late at night to recount our days. She suffered in silence, and though we still remain friends, I can’t wrap my head around how ignorant, careless, and disrespectful I was.

My other roommate and I tried to rationalize our behavior… in our defenses, how we behaved was just “who we were.” Why did we have to be quieter? Why couldn’t we have friends in the room? Why? Because it shouldn’t have been just about us. Now, my roommate who moved out ended up really enjoying her new space—maybe she was meant to move out, and our previous rooming situation wasn’t the right environment for her. While these statements may both possess some truth, I also had some agency in reflecting on how my actions were affecting how she felt in the shared space, and that reflection I did not do. Why? Because I had my (metaphorical) arsenal up and ready, prepared to take on the big and scary “culture shock”, failing to realize it was me the whole time.

I am writing this piece just to hand you off with a little bit of advice. College is fun and life-changing and challenging, and scary in many ways. By being mindful of how our actions and behavior affect/ have the potential to affect our peers, we’re not only becoming more self-aware, but we are also making someone else’s experience here a lot better. This past year at SLU, whenever I found myself confronting my roommate about something, she often had various suggestions and words of advice for me as well. Sometimes we just don’t pick up on things, and that is okay to a certain extent. Many of us have grown up in environments where our behavior is condoned and even mirrored, and no one has called us out for it. It’s hard to recognize our own difference when we are surrounded by it. This cognizance must come with the acknowledgement that among those who we perceive as different, we are also different, and I am saying this as someone who still has much to learn. I am not a wise and omniscient college student. I have, however, recognized that when I have a negative experience with a person or am uncomfortable with something, the other person may potentially feel very similarly. Your way of doing things or living life is not necessarily “better”, it’s just different. “Culture Shock”, as indicated in the term itself, can be shocking. Finding ways to accept, accommodate, and understand the differences of both our peers and ourselves is difficult; there is no universal recipe or method to make people hold hands and live in harmony. There, however, are things we can do to try. It’s a learning process, for everyone.

 So, when your loved ones send you off, warning you about what to expect when you arrive here, be mindful of what you, too, are bringing to the table.